I Am Hutterite:
The Fascinating True Story of a Young Woman's
Journey to Reclaim Her Heritage

by Mary-Ann Kirkby

Thomas Nelson, 2010. ISBN 978-0-849-94810-7.
Reviewed by Susan M. Andrus
Posted on 05/01/2010

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events; Nonfiction: Faith/Spirituality/Inspiration

Canadian history is new to me, and every time I read a little, I want to know more. Mary-Ann Kirkby gives us the kind of history that makes us live her experiences right along with her. Born in the Hutterite colony of New Rosedale, Manitoba, along the banks of the Assinboine River, Kirkby shows us an insider's view of communal living at its best: children cared for by the elders while their parents worked in the kitchen, gardens, stables, and farms; everyone supplied with food and shelter no matter what their position in the community; and especially the love of families growing up together.

Life was difficult in the community. Kirkby records her experiences with births: "[My mother's] hasty departures and subsequent returns with another baby were an annual event" and deaths. Kirkby's mother, Mary, was the youngest of sixteen children when her mother died suddenly of a gallstone attack at age forty-five. Kirkby quotes a letter her grandfather, Joseph Maendel, wrote to his sister-in-law at the time, "...We stared in disbelief as our desperately needed and precious mother lay dead in front of our eyes."

Using photos, letters, and her own memories, Kirkby teaches us about the Hutterite faith. "Jacob Hutter, an Austrian hat maker, led a fledgling group of Anabaptists to an new kind of Christian community. Hutter's passionate vision of a society where property was shared and people worked together for the common good gave birth to the Hutterite Church and way of life." She also shows how peaceful the community could be when everyone worked together, and how tragic it was when conflict caused her parents to leave the community when she was ten years old.

Writing this book gives Kirkby an opportunity to revisit her roots and resolve some of the pain she experienced during that separation. It also gives us an opportunity to learn more about our collective history.

Mary-Ann Kirkby, a former journalist, began her career in Dauphin, Manitoba as a news anchor and reporter and later was appointed senior reporter responsible for aboriginal issues at CTV in Prince Albert. From 1993-1996, she worked in Ottawa as a freelance journalist and served as Media Relations Consultant for the National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. She is the recipient of two Can-Pro Awards for political reporting and for hosting a children's program.

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